Whiteness in architecture: Mapping the modernism through research of “white walls”

Liana Rosinová


The identity of modern architecture seems inseparable from the whiteness of its surfaces. But why white? Why do modernists surround themselves with white walls? This paper deals with the phenomenon of white as a framework for portraying the social and cultural development of whiteness throughout history. It outlines a new critical interpretation of the privileging of the colour white in architecture, which distorts the image of white as the peak of purity, morality, evolution, sublimity, silence, etc. The main body of the work deals with a retrieval of many authors who focused on motifs, art programs, and colour schemes that reflected the aspiration of the use of this colour in Modernism. The text focuses at the ideas and performance of selected historical facts and figures, such as the asceticism of J. J. Winckelmann, Le Corbusier´s Law of Ripolin, elimination of an ornament of A. Loos, white supremacy of A. Ozenfant, which address the issue of white. The task continues on the academic research which examines the social construction of the “white race“ as possessing a privileged social status in reference to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and to a fact, that modern architecture was never simply white. The aim is to explore cultural-historical-social preference of white only in the narrow, intolerant, and dogmatic attitude and also takes some viewpoints on the topic of whiteness to apprise the current critical understanding of white.

Keywords: architecture, colour, mapping, modernism, white, whiteness